On April 30, dozens of churches on Chicago's South Side participated in 'I Need You to Survive Sunday,' which involved AIDS education and fundraising—and one of the people involved in the event's organization only expects the outreach to become even more successful next year.
' [ The event ] was a dry run this year,' Lloyd Kelly, co-founder of The Let's Talk, Let's Test Foundation ( LTLTF ) , an HIV/AIDS advocacy and public policy organization, told Windy City Times. 'Now that we've had some success with it, we're going to try to expand it. And the beauty of it is that it creates a whole new stream of fundraising for HIV/AIDS.' He added that he would like to move beyond Black churches into other houses of worship because AIDS 'is an issue that affects everyone. This is an opportunity to unite a lot of different communities.'
Kelly also feels that churches have gotten a bad rap, especially recently. 'The media has always portrayed the faith-based community as one that hasn't responded to [ the AIDS crisis ] ,' he said. 'I think initially that was the case, but in the past five or six years the faith-based community just has not known what to do, and I think something like this puts them in the right direction.'
The event happened rather quickly, it turns out. 'In March, we met with [ the ] Rev. Thomas Crider, who's the head of the Pastors' Network, and we explained to him what the Let's Talk, Let's Test Foundation is,' Kelly said. 'We always have a faith-based committee for the [ Annual African-American HIV/AIDS Walk, Run and Bike Ride on May 19 ] . He asked him if he would be the South Side co-chair for the walk's faith-based committee, and he [ agreed ] . We kept talking, and I suggested that we get churches to take a collection for the walk, and he suggested [ April 29 ] ; then, someone else [ named it ] .'
The walk, which alternates between the South and West sides of Chicago each year, will start at 90th Street and King Drive and conclude at 57th Street and King. Registration will start at 8 a.m., and the walk ( which is in its fifth year ) will begin at 11 a.m. In addition to the journey, there will be free health screenings; plenty of food; and a concert featuring gospel and R&B music. ( 'Some people have suggested that we [ relocate ] to the lakefront,' Kelly said. 'However, we want to highlight the issue of HIV, and we want to highlight the beautiful neighborhoods in the Black community. When we walk down the streets, people just come from everywhere. It's a very supportive atmosphere.' )
Something different about this year's walk, though, is that pledge sheets were only given to organizations, and not to individuals. 'Initially, it was our intent to help our African-American agencies,' Kelly said. 'What we want to do is get the money to those organizations as quickly as possible, so whatever they raise this year, they keep. All we ask is for them to give us the pledge sheets so we can report [ the proper information ] to the IRS. As long as they use the money for something HIV/AIDS-related, it's theirs to keep. We're trying to take some of the bureaucracy out of it.'
See www.ltltfoundation.org or call 773-821-2795 for more info.